On July 25, 2019, ten Democrats in the U.S. Senate sent a letter to Sundar Pichai, the 47-year-old Google CEO who hails from India. The senators expressed their “objection to Google’s misuse of independent contractors and temporary workers,” citing recent stories in The New York Times on May 28, 2019 and August 5, 2019.
After reading the letter, I was almost speechless, because it has been Congress, especially the Senate more than 30 years ago, that set up the conditions impacting American tech workers that these senators now object to. It was members in both the House and Senate who began to legislate tax laws and foreign worker visa laws that created this two-tier/multi-tier “caste” IT/tech workforce in our country.
And, now, these senators express concern?
In 1986, then Sen. Patrick Moynihan was lobbied by IBM for an offshore tax break (Europe) that he believed he could “offset” by making sure independent computer consultants (back then called “data processing” consultants) paid their taxes. Thus, Moynihan put in Section 1706 into the 1986 tax law. Ignorantly, coming from such a brilliant senator, this belief about unpaid taxes by individual IT consultants was quite erroneous.
From 1987 to 2010 – on five different occasions, including three different stories by David Cay Johnston, one of the top journalists covering tax – The New York Times reported on Section 1706 and how it negatively impacted American IT consultants, inhibiting them from building their own small consulting practices, and consequently spawning the awful “tax collecting” IT “body shop” business model, masterfully exploited by Indian off-shoring companies using our own visa programs.
The owner of the Baltimore Ravens actually became a billionaire largely based on this Section 1706 corporate human trafficking/tax collecting architecture business model. Given that Moynihan and IBM were both from New York, I wonder how much of a Wall Street broker securities’ model influenced their thinking on creating this section of the 1986 tax law.
Beginning in the 1980s, Congress and the Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton administrations began and continued negotiations with WTO/GATT that opened up our nation’s labor market to foreign labor dumping, starting with the “one-time” 1986 amnesty, then the 1990 H-1B visa law, and then the NAFTA Professional TN visa. Both Republican and Democrat administrations are responsible for the multi-tier employee/contractor situation that now exists at Google and other tech/IT corporations, not to mention numerous other corporations that hire tech workers – which is practically all organizations that use information technology, or basically everyone.
What is confounding is that so many elected officials – elected to represent American interests – do not see a problem trying to push more foreign labor dumping into our country. Perhaps they’ve been bought off by special interests, so their interests are no longer aligned with those of the American citizens they were elected to represent.
On September 27, 2018, Sen. Lindsey Graham, now Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, expressed his outrage against the attempt by the Senate Democrats and their fellow travelers to “torpedo” SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh for an appointment to the Supreme Court. If only all the senators from both parties would express that level of outrage with displacement of American IT/STEM professionals and show their solidarity with them.
Where is the outrage on behalf of average middle-class American workers who have had their livelihoods destroyed by widespread foreign labor dumping?
Both parties in Congress are to blame for the current labor market fubar for American IT/STEM professionals. But Google isn’t blameless. Remember their original mantra? “Don’t Be Evil.” This “value” was dropped in 2015. Given the number of employees who have engaged in questionable, illegal or unethical behavior, it’s probably best they ceased using that tagline. Look to Google’s violation of antitrust laws for starters. Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and other tech oligarchs broke antitrust law agreeing not to “poach” each other’s corporations’ employees. Eric Schmidt, and maybe Tim Cook, as well as other tech oligarchs, should have been “perp-walked” for that crime alone. And how about these tech companies’ misrepresentation of hiring minorities for government contracts? The infractions list is long.
How about our privacy? What good is our Bill of Rights and Constitution if powerful corporate oligarchs flout our basic human rights by invading our privacy without our consent, suppress free speech, game “rule 320,” ignore the primacy of U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment by hiring cheap foreign labor, and railroad/fire employees who disagree with the increasing type of Orwellian “group think” becoming more prevalent at these tech corporations? It seems that Google and other tech corporations are being allowed, unchecked, the tyranny of corporate power, consequently subverting our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. What are the members of Congress going to do to protect U.S. citizens from this extra-legal, unconstitutional corporate power?
Getting back to that Senate letter sent to the Google CEO on July 25, are the senators trying to stealthily push Google, without explicitly mentioning foreign workers, to hire these many workers on a full-time basis in our country, so that it might be easier to pass S. 386, the misnamed Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019? Interesting that there was no mention of foreign workers in the Senators’ letter, even though it’s well known that Google hires a large number of foreign workers, primarily from one country. Google does not stand alone. Tens of thousands of foreign workers on H-1B visas – over 70 percent from one country – work at various companies and universities in California, in addition to many more on visas in Texas, New York, New Jersey Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania, among others.
Memo to members of Congress and members of our elected Senate: Fix the visa and tax mess your predecessors created decades ago, so that American citizens are not the victims of various corporate human trafficking schemes and foreign labor dumping into our own labor market. Empower individual American citizens to go directly to hiring managers for jobs, instead of having to navigate the labyrinth bureaucratic maze of corporate HR hacks, vendor management and body shop/tax collecting intermediaries.
For immediate starters:
Don’t pass S. 386 in the Senate!
Pass Rep. Gosar’s H.R. 3564!
Reform Section 1706 in the tax code!